Mechanics for Mixed Heritage

The One D&D Unearthed Arcana introduced updated Character Origin rules. Almost every PHB race was revisited, but two were dropped: Half-Elf and Half-Orc. The latter was replaced with the full Orc, but the former was replaced with a new planetouched race called the Ardling. That left no half- or otherwise mixed race options.

What am I supposed to do with all this bearded, pointy-eared people art??

There is a sidebar, “Children of Different Humanoid Kinds,” that says if you want to play half-elf, half-orc, or any other combination of things, just pick one side of your parentage to determine your game abilities and then you can describe yourself as looking like a combination of both sides of your ancestry. Then average the two races’ lifespan to get your expected lifespan.

A lot of folks feel that is insufficient for a variety of reasons that I’ll leave you to find on your own. A lot of alternatives have been proposed, usually around the idea of combining traits from two or more races, but exactly in what proportion is a tough nut to crack. So I took a swing.

Mechanical Mixing

Any mixed heritage system needs to be as simple as making a few choices from a list. Spending points out of a pool to “purchase” racial traits a la carte is too involved for my casual players and the casual players that D&D is most aimed at. So, how much of what do you pick?

I went through the Races section of the Character Origins UA and gave each trait under each race a simple categorization:

  • Minor (m): A single skill proficiency, darkvision, a cantrip, resistance to a rare damage type, or a fairly situational ability
  • Major (M): Magic progression with cantrip, 1st-, and 2nd-level spells; resistance to a common damage type; or a generally powerful ability
  • Superior/major + minor (Mm): Something that exceeds the Major options in a substantial way

These are general bands of power, not meant to draw fine lines between every distinct trait. That would not enable the quick-and-dirty nature of this homebrew on a playtest doc. Are these subjective? Yes, to some unavoidable degree. No two people will rate everything exactly the same, including the designers. But we’ve got to start somewhere.

The first thing I learned is the races as written are not particularly balanced. Modularizing the races into a standardized structure like we see in the Backgrounds of the Character Origins UA would require significant changes to a number of the races. I decided against that, as that would limit the utility of the system going forward since Wizards of the Coast are unlikely to adopt my rewrite of their UA, to understate things significantly.

Instead, I built a structure for mixed heritage races that is itself standardized even though it is built out of these non-standardized pieces. The median race in the UA has about 2 Major traits and 2 Minor traits. Some have a Superior trait, but none have more than one. So I used that as the structure. Every mixed heritage PC using this will have 2 Major and 2 Minor traits, with Superior traits taking up 1 Major and 1 Minor slot, and no more than 1 Superior trait. This way, even if the UA traits are eventually revised, this structure can still be applied, I’ll just need to update the trait ratings.

So here’s my sidebar:

Children of Different Humanoid Kinds

Across the magical worlds of the multiverse, humanoids of different kinds often have children together. On some worlds, children of humans and orcs or humans and elves are particularly prevalent. However, many other combinations are possible and well represented throughout the multiverse.

If you decide your character is the child of such a pairing, pick the Creature Type, Size, and Speed traits of one of your parentages (we suggest the most distinctive). Determine the average of the two options’ Life Span traits to figure out how long your character might live. For example, a child of a Gnome and a Halfling has an average life span of 288 years. As far as physical description, you can mix and match the visual characteristics – color, ear shape, and the like – of both parentages.

For your special traits, pick two major traits and two minor traits from those listed for your character’s parentage, in any combination. In place of one of your major and minor picks, you may instead pick a superior trait. You cannot pick more than one superior trait.

For example, the Gnome/Halfling child above might pick the Gnome’s Gnomish Cunning trait (superior), the Halfling’s Luck trait (major), and the Gnome’s Darkvision trait (minor). Alternatively, they could pick the Gnome’s Gnomish Lineage trait (major), the Halfling’s Brave trait (major), the Gnome’s Darkvision trait (minor), and the Halfling’s Halfling Nimbleness trait (minor).

  • Human
    • Resourceful (Major)
    • Skillful (Minor)
    • Versatile (Superior)
  • Ardling
    • Angelic Flight (Major)
    • Celestial Legacy (Major)
    • Damage Resistance (minor)
  • Dragonborn
    • Draconic Ancestry (this has no effect itself, it only affects the Breath Weapon and Damage Resistance traits. If you take either of those, also take Draconic Ancestry)
    • Breath Weapon (Major)
    • Damage Resistance (Major)
    • Darkvision (minor)
    • Draconic Language (if Dragonborn is one of your parentages, you get this trait automatically)
  • Dwarf
    • Darkvision (Minor)
    • Dwarven Resilience (Major)
    • Dwarven Toughness (Major)
    • Forge Wise (Minor)
    • Stonecunning (Major)
  • Elf
    • Darkvision (Minor)
    • Elven Lineage (Superior)
    • Fey Ancestry (Major)
    • Keen Senses (Minor)
    • Trance (Minor)
  • Gnome
    • Darkvision (Minor)
    • Gnomish Cunning (Superior)
    • Gnomish Lineage (Major)
  • Halfling
    • Brave (Major)
    • Halfling Nimbleness (Minor)
    • Luck (Major)
    • Naturally Stealthy (Minor)
  • Orc
    • Adrenaline Rush (Major)
    • Darkvision (Minor)
    • Powerful Build (Minor)
    • Relentless Endurance (Major)
  • Tiefling
    • Darkvision (Minor)
    • Fiendish Legacy (Superior)
    • Otherworldly Presence (Minor)

Sample Combinations

So, a few examples:

  • Tanis, Half-Elf Half-Human
    • Fey Ancestry (Major)
    • Trance (Minor)
    • Versatile (Superior)
  • Fjord, Half-Human Half-Orc
    • Adrenaline Rush (Major)
    • Darkvision (Minor)
    • Resourceful (Major)
    • Skillful (Minor)
  • Koriand’r Starfire, Half-Ardling Half-Dragonborn
    • Angelic Flight (Major)
    • Breath Weapon (Major)
    • (Ardling’s) Damage Resistance (Minor)
    • Darkvision (Minor)
    • Draconic Ancestry (free)
    • Draconic Language (free)
  • Chastity Bitterburn, Half-Dwarf Half-Tiefling
    • Darkvision (Minor)
    • Fiendish Legacy (Superior)
    • Stonecunning (Major)

I don’t think these are broken, not in light of the standard Dwarf and Elf packages, at least. Maybe Dragonborn’s Breath Weapon should be superior? But maybe not. I’ll keep revising it.

What do you think? Does this make mixed heritage characters feel more mixed? None of this is set in stone, I welcome thoughtful feedback.

Let me know if you try this out how it works for you! That would be amazing.

Also, please, can we drop the word Race and use almost any synonym? Heritage, Ancestry, Parentage, Kin, even Bloodline is better than Race. Thanks.

No, no, not that kind. (Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines poster)

Does One D&D Fix Grappling?

At least in one major way, yes.

In 5e, to grapple someone you make a Strength (Athletics) check opposed by their Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check, and if you win they are Grappled, meaning they cannot move, but that’s it.

Pictured: grappling (picture of a stop sign)

So imagine your party Wizard is being attacked by a melee brute, let’s call it a Bearded Devil. You’re a big Barbarian or Fighter and want to grapple the thing to get it to lay off the Wizard. You go up and succeed the opposed check, and you’re both now Grappled.

What has changed? Almost nothing. If the BD’s turn comes between yours and the Wizard’s, the BD still gets to attack the Wizard totally unimpeded. If the Wizard’s turn comes between yours and the BD’s, then they either have to Disengage or take an opportunity attack, the same as if the BD weren’t grappled at all. The only difference is that if the Wizard disengages or eats an opportunity attack and successfully moves away, then on the BD’s next turn, it has to either attack you or use its action to try to escape the grapple to pursue the Wizard.

(Spider-Man asking “Why do I even bother?”)

That is a tangential benefit that almost certainly is less useful than just hitting the thing or at least knocking it prone.

But the One D&D UA released today changes that in a good way! The new Grappled condition gives disadvantage to attacks against anyone other than your grappler. So as soon as you grapple the Bearded Devil, its opportunity attack against the fleeing Wizard is now at Disadvantage! And even if the BD’s turn comes before the Wizard’s, it has an incentive to attack you instead of the Wizard even though the Wizard is still next to it. So you instantly help out your party’s squishies by grappling the melee brute that is attacking them! Exactly how you imagine running up and engaging your companion’s assailant should help.

It’s not all good news for grapplers and bad for grapplees, though. The Bearded Devil now gets a free chance to break the grapple at the end of its turn instead of having to use its action. So if the BD’s turn is before the Wizard’s, then it will likely attack you to avoid disadvantage, and then attempt to break the grapple. If it succeeds, then the Wizard still faces a full OA when they run on their turn.

Battle of the Bearded Dudes, I suppose

In summary, there are three ways a successful grapple changes this scenario: either 1) the Wizard is able to run away and only face an OA with disadvantage, 2) the BD attacks you instead of the Wizard, but breaks the grapple at the end of its turn and still fully threatens the Wizard, or 3) the BD attacks you instead of the Wizard and fails to break the grapple at the end of its turn, so the Wizard also only faces an OA with disadvantage.

Either way, it’s a lot better than maybe sucking up the BD’s action a whole turn later after it’s already made another round of attacks and opportunity attacks on the Wizard. I’m implementing this immediately. Three cheers for One D&D!

Rulings Require Rules

I hate disagreeing with Matt Colville.

One, because he is an unprecedentedly wonderful resource for GMs, by all accounts a top-rate employer, and an exemplary creative professional. Two, because he so often gets things perfectly right and I don’t want to be misconstrued as saying Matt Colville is fundamentally wrong-headed and not worth listening to. Three, because he takes criticism kind of poorly and his community, which I consider myself a part of, is very defensive of him. In his “Language, Not Rules” video posted yesterday, he says “Take [this video] in the spirit it is meant . . . you are encouraged to disagree loudly.”

So here I go.

I Actually Agree a Lot

I disagree with that video’s conclusion, but I agree with a lot of the specific points he raises and I think he and I would ultimately come pretty close to agreement if we had a dialogue about it. He is right that 3E’s “a rule for everything under the sun” approach bogged down the game in minutiae and litigation, that rules are a language we use to communicate our role play, and that mastery of language means knowing how to break the rules to invent new expressions. He’s right that minutiae like the comma in “Let’s eat, grandma” can be omitted without anyone thinking you are suggesting cannibalism. He’s right that there is no reward for playing 100% by the rules, and that getting them right is not required to have fun.

Perhaps most of all, he’s right that you should not “waste time looking [rules] up, just guess, and if you’re familiar with the rules, your guess might not be ‘correct’ but it will be ‘good’: your players will think ‘that’s fair,’ and you can move on.” That’s what a good ruling is, and he argues, ultimately, that good rulings are what make RPGs work, not getting the rule for every possible scenario “right.” In fact, he argues that whatever rules are there are just the spelling and grammar of an emergent spoken language that can’t be perfectly described by the rules text, only indicated or approximated: the rules don’t matter themselves, they only suggest and prompt the emergent gameplay at the table. Thus “rulings, not rules.”

The Dark Side of “Rulings, not Rules”

I wholeheartedly agree that 3E’s maximalist approach went well past the point where additional detail’s marginal benefit in terms of robustness and predictability sunk below its marginal cost in terms of rules look-ups/memorization and disputes. I don’t want to return to that. However, I would suggest that “rulings, not rules” simply replaces one extreme for another.

Take the classic example of a DM imposing “realistic” limitations on feats of martial prowess while allowing magical power to increase freely since that’s what the rules indicate and the magic doesn’t run up against real-world baggage in the DM’s mind. Perhaps a more even-handed DM imposes a risk of madness when a mage uses powerful magic. But even then, PC abilities are now like Schrodinger’s cat, simultaneously available and not available until observed, contingent on getting the DM’s buy-in. Players have traded disputes over hard-wired rules for negotiations over quantum rulings.

What is lost in that mode is not just the players’ entitlement to the shiny buttons on their character sheet, i.e. their most direct ability to self-express, but also the players’ ability to solve problems creatively. If there are no rules for digging holes in the ground, PCs may never realize they can bypass a dungeon level by doing so, and even if they do they will have to play Mother May I to see if it might succeed. If there are no rules for what acid does to objects, it will be much harder to rely on it in concocting a way to escape the prison of the usurper king because if you pitch it to the DM who had a big thing planned in the dungeon, they might say it doesn’t work that way simply to keep you aimed at what they have prepped. Creative applications of known quantities – not undefined suggestions – are the building blocks of the kind of schemes that are at the heart of so many excellent, dramatic D&D stories.

I think Colville might agree with that in theory, but say that it’s still an improvement over death-by-rulesphyxiation, and that training DMs to be more consistent and more sensitive to and encouraging of players’ fun can prevent the bad scenarios. Lots of tables did it right back in the day, after all. It’s a personality problem, a table problem, not a design problem or a systemic problem. The language metaphor would come up: mastery of language is not obeying every rule but using novel variations of the basic rules to better express oneself. The DM and the players have to have the negotiation to truly explore and express the drama of the story they tell. But I think the problem is systemic, that the old days were full of bad tables as well, and applying individual fixes to systemic problems is a recipe for frustration and failure. I don’t think that means we need to pre-solve every rules problem with a right answer, though.

Laying Down the Law

I have a degree in the Chinese language, so I understand the language metaphor. I also have a degree in law, and I think law is the better comparison, and not just for the obvious reason that they’re both systems of rules. The law is made of rules, yes, but society uses the law’s rules to organize activities with many participants. And not just for the sake of a fair competition, but for people who want to cooperate to achieve a goal together. When two savvy businesses enter into a contract, neither of them is controlling or policing or gatekeeping the other, they are clarifying their agreement very precisely and making their cooperation as predictable as possible. Predictability enables and encourages action in a group.

But complexity undermines predictability. Law, like 3E, wants to create the perfect answer for every scenario ahead of time, so while any question has a theoretical answer, the process of making an agreement is so complex that it’s difficult to predict what will end up happening anyway. It requires immense knowledge of a complicated ruleset to execute the kind of interactions both sides want. That, frankly, doesn’t benefit the law that much, and it is certainly unacceptable for TTRPGs, where the game moving forward is more important than the answer to any one question.

That’s where rulings come in. But first, let’s talk about language as self-expression.

Fickledorfs and Padawaggers

The audience of a play or a novel or a YouTube video is passive, and the context of the invented expression will passively inform its contours. The precise meaning is unimportant because the author will simply avoid scenarios where “blue flavor” could be ambiguous, like referring to a sad flavor as well as referring to blue raspberry. But RPGs are not passive experiences, they are participatory. They don’t just tell stories, nor are their rules just there to generate improv prompts. They also create expectations and inform choices, inform role-playing.

If you’re called up on stage at a game show and told to use the fickledorf to shmurt the padawagger, you will be lost until you see more context, like a hammer lying next to a nail. But if there is a hammer, a saw, and a pair of scissors on one table and a nail, a log, and a piece of paper on the other, suddenly the invented language isn’t clear anymore because it’s no longer confined to a context that makes it clear; any one of the former could be the fickledorf, and any of the latter the padawagger you must shmurt. The language is no longer actionable, and the game can no longer be played, because neither the text nor the context give foreseeable meaning to any choice.

Rulings Require Context

We communicate a lot, if not predominantly, through context. That’s why “let’s eat grandma” is not confusing, even without the comma. It’s not that commas are actually meaningless, it’s that context does the heavy lifting despite the text. And so it is in RPGs: rulings rely on mechanical and fictional context. Good rulings flow from good rules. Colville even says good rulings come from familiarity with the rules, and the players’ response to a good ruling is “that’s fair.” And that is telling; in Colville’s own description, the DM is pitching a novel mechanical resolution and the players are assenting to it based on what, exactly? Based on the context of the rest of the game’s rules and the fiction. The DM is resolving this action in this way because that is how similar actions are resolved in the rules. That’s why it’s “fair;” it is precedented, it is foreseeable; it is consistent with other, similar resolutions.

Good rulings flow from good rules.

Rulings are a useful tool in a DM’s toolbox: use the rules you know to resolve an action whose resolution is unclear, either because you don’t know the rule or because there is no rule or because the actual rule is terrible and doesn’t fit the fiction, or whatever other reason. Good rulings fill in the creases and gaps in a necessarily limited rule-set in a foreseeable way that is substantially consistent with that rule-set and the fiction of the game.

In general, though, rulings supplement rules, they don’t displace them. The rules establish the baseline expectations for both players and DM, the foundation on which players make role-playing choices and DMs make rulings.

What Even Are Good Rules?

3E’s problem wasn’t that it wanted to give DMs the tools to adjudicate any scenario, it’s that its tools were too specific, they couldn’t be generalized. You had to learn each of them, and they tended to be complicated in their operation to ensure every angle was covered. The 4+ step process to grapple is the most famous example, but building monsters was also frighteningly complicated with the number of feats and other rules you had to track and apply properly. The rule-set was robust, sure, but its tools and processes were just so needlessly difficult to learn and difficult to use.

The ideal is a rule-set that resolves similar things similarly and simply, that naturally creates the model for further rulings. Fifth Edition made a wonderfully flexible, easy-to-use mechanic in Advantage/Disadvantage, but then also adds a bunch of other ways to improve rolls, like Bardic Inspiration (+d6-d12, depending on level), the bless spell (+d4), and the Archery Fighting Style (+2), among many others. It’s inconsistent on when rider effects on monsters’ attacks , e.g. vampires and vampire spawn have multiattack and can choose to grab a target they hit in lieu of dealing damage, whereas the mind flayer’s tentacles attack deals damage and grapples and has a chance to stun the target. How stealth works is infamously open to interpretation. And let’s not get started on “melee weapon attacks” vs. “attacks with a melee weapon.” While it’s got a fraction of 3E’s complexity, it still has a lot of fiddly, inconsistent rules that offer little guidance for rulings in a game that explicitly endorses rulings over rules.

Shadow of the Demon Lord has a more consistent approach. Bonuses and penalties are condensed into a system of boons and banes, e.g. d6s that are rolled with the d20. You take the largest d6 result and add it to or subtract it from your d20 roll, depending on if you rolled boons or banes. Spells like bless, advantageous positioning, the aid of a comrade, those all give you a boon or two, consistent across the board. 5e would benefit from adopting that consistent approach, both in terms of setting expectations for players to be creative around, and in terms of making ad hoc rulings easier to be consistent about.

Conclusion

I think on some level Colville would agree that neither absolute rules fidelity nor absolute rules freeform is ideal for most groups. Whether you lean on rules or rulings, what you want is a consistent, predictable mechanical context in which to explore dramatic situations without bogging down the free flow of the narrative aspects with either extensive litigation or negotiation.

To my mind, that means a well-defined ruleset that uses similar building blocks as widely as possible to create clear expectations and predictability on both sides of the screen. The drama and shock and surprise should come from the choices of characters and the dice, not the ad hoc resolution mechanics.

Rulings are integral to any TTRPG, but they are ultimately tools that serve their greatest purpose in the context of consistent, clear rules. Jettisoning the latter and filling in everything with rulings can work, just as the opposite can work with the right group, too, but common, shared, comprehensible rules that set expectations for actions and for rulings will facilitate action, and thus, in the semiotics of TTRPGs, communication, more than rulings or rules alone.

D&D After Next

Continuing on from this post.

So, what design goals do think would help the D&D After Next (D&D AN) be a better game? First, a note on what I mean by ‘better.’ I want a new edition of D&D to lower the barrier-to-entry of the hobby, to expand the market, to make new gamers, not just pander to old ones. I want it to get at the core of what makes D&D fun, not what makes it familiar.

My mantra for this project will be; does this idea make the experience cleaner, faster, or richer? If it doesn’t do one of those things, it’s not going to make it into the game.

Cleaner-

I want the game to be simpler than some of its editions, and not simply by relying on the DM to make up most of it. I want a reasonable first-time player to feel fairly comfortable playing after their first session. I want to make the DM’s job as easy as possible. I want the rules to be clear and concise, and I want them all very easy to find; preferably all in one place, or in extremely handy places – no more flipping through chapter upon chapter of text trying to look stuff up. So, I want a simpler, streamlined D&D, in both presentation and content.

Faster-

My ideal session of D&D AN would last about 60-150 minutes, and cover a complete mid-sized adventure without feeling rushed. I don’t want to have to choose between spending time with family and friends and playing D&D; besides the obvious possibility of doing both simultaneously, I want to be able to do both in the same evening. Resolution time needs to be cut down by a significant margin; combats need to be shorter without being much more lethal. I aim for a combat to take between 10-25 minutes, not 30-40. I want less die rolls per action wherever possible. I have a lot of ideas for this that you’ll see in the next post.

Richer-

At the same time, I want a richer D&D: I want tools that emphasize the story-telling aspects, and meaningful, yet balanced character options. D&D AN needs to play to its strengths, considering the competition from other hobbies, and I think the story-telling aspect is one of the big ones. D&D AN will strive to help you craft and live your character’s story, with all the thrills, disappointments, and achievements that come with it. But besides story-telling, there needs to be a great amount of depth and range of character options. I will use the principles described here and here to make balanced, situationally beneficial options. No more trap classes or feats! No more pigeonholing race + class combos! No more identical class mechanics! And not just in the dungeon; I will make meaningful non-combat rules that have depth while keeping everyone able to participate (more on that soon).

Those are my broad goals. Specific benchmarks and ways to achieve them will be brainstormed and hashed out right here, for your entertainment/enrichment. My next article will focus specifically on how much faster it needs to be and how to get there.

Please leave a reply with your comments, ideas, or criticisms! Agree or disagree? What do you think D&D AN needs to be?

D&D’s Next Mistake

My first post on Dungeons & Dragons-

Dungeons & Dragons Adventuring Party

For those of you who know Dungeons & Dragons and D&D Next, skip the first 2 paragraphs.

For those of you who don’t know, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is the quintessential table-top role-playing game (TTRPG).  I’ll save the details for an RPG Primer in the future, but the fundamentals are as follows:  In D&D, you create a character and team up with the other players’ characters and go on adventures.  You can do pretty much whatever you want, using your character’s statistics and die rolls to determine success or failure.  You explore cavernous dungeons, evade cunning traps, and fight ferocious monsters, all to either get rich or rescue the princess or whatever else you can imagine.  It’s a free-form game, and one player must be the Dungeon Master (or Game Master, more generically), who designs the dungeons or adventures, and plays all the enemies and other non-player characters (NPCs).

Since its first release in 1974, it has been through many changes in system and rules, all of which have encouraged slightly different ways of playing.  When each new edition is rolled out, many players remain ardently attached to their older, favorite edition, while new players are attracted to the features of a new edition.  Currently, Wizards of the Coast – the company who owns D&D – is making a new 5th edition of D&D, currently called D&D Next.

To be honest, I’m not sure how excited I am for it.  The approach that the designers are taking is, in my opinion, a recipe for failure.  Let me explain what I mean:  Beginning in early 2011, Mike Mearls, the senior manager for research and development of D&D Next, began writing about a new take on some key features of D&D.  He talked about getting back to the basics of D&D while utilizing all the best innovations of later editions.  Polls were used, asking you which ‘option’ you would prefer.  If there weren’t several options discussed in the article, then polls asked how much you agreed with the idea presented in the article.  Then they announced that they would be making a new edition (in case there was anyone who hadn’t figured that out already), and started asking if X idea or Y idea feels more like D&D.  After the first playtest documents were released and tested, they sent out a questionnaire asking you to identify the most iconic spells from a list, again, asking which ones feel most important to your D&D experience.

OK, so what’s the problem?  The problem is, simply, that they are attempting to crowd-source their design goals.  They want the fanbase to tell them what they think will make a good D&D,  which means they are not pursuing any single vision of a good game.

In a nutshell, this:

Penny Arcade "The Way Forward"

This approach, I fear, will lead to a smattering of features and rules that are all over the place; the designers have even said themselves that the feel of the rules must trump the math of the system.  I don’t even know how you can choose between a feel and the math, since it seems to me that the math creates the feel, but that attitude, that non-commitment to a solid rule-set, combined with the idea that fans on the internet will give them a good vision for where the next edition needs to go, is terrible leadership on display.

Businesses need visionary leadership.  Steve Jobs was opposed to market research because he thought “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”*  While not everyone can, like Jobs, be right about that, the lesson to be learned is that customers don’t necessarily know what will make a good product:  Customers can identify issues, but rarely can they accurately identify solutions, and certainly not unanimously.  It’s up to Mike Mearls to listen to his user base and then have the knowledge and intuition to know how to solve those problems – possibly in ways no one on the internet has even thought of – and lead his team to execute those ideas.

But before you even get to that point, you need a clear foundation of goals you’re attempting to achieve.  The current generation of D&D, 4th Edition, actually had those; execution was very spotty, and some of their goals were incompatible or ill-advised, but they at least had a clear vision for the game.  So far, 5e has asked people on the internet to build its foundation while the team develops bits and pieces before it’s even in place.  I think that’ll end up as bad as it sounds.

That being said, 5e has already come out with some interesting new mechanics; Hit Dice, Advantage/Disadvantage, and the Fighter’s new Combat Superiority mechanic are all good starting places for great ideas.  But they are just means to no apparent end; WotC is on a wild goose chase, trying to satisfy all fans of all editions. The key rhetoric they’ve been using in promotional events and interviews is that this edition will unite the splintered fanbase by making it all things to all people. As Bill Cosby said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

With that in mind, I’ll be dedicating some of these posts to what my design goals would be for a new edition, and talk about ways to achieve them.  Some of these will be good, some won’t.  Much of my game design philosophy and knowledge comes from The Gaming Den, so feel free to check that place out, but be warned; it can be an unfriendly place.  As I go forward, please comment with your perspectives and ideas; your thoughts may inspire me or others to make great things in the future.

*That’s an extreme example, where he had the best creative minds in the world creating whole new products and platforms, making disruptive innovations, so market research wasn’t really that applicable.  WotC is not in that position with D&D Next, but compared to what’s happening, I’d welcome some managerial risk-taking.